This is a picture of my wife’s grandfather, Gordon Mackenzie, as a young Western Union messenger boy in Dallas circa 1923 (third from left). Gordon died last year at the age of 96 but was a messenger from the age of 12 to 14. He’d tell us stories about his Western Union days, and wearing down three different bicycles while working for the company. His bicycle of choice was a Pierce-Arrow which was outfitted with a shaft drive instead of a chain. The interesting twist to the story here is that Clyde Barrow also worked for the Western Union as a bike messenger. Gordon didn’t remember if they worked together, but considering they were only a year apart in age, the likelihood is high. He mentioned several other interesting Bonnie and Clyde connections, including the fact that he’d purchase his bikes at a shop on Akard run by Smoot Schmid. Smoot would later become Sheriff of Dallas and lead the manhunt for the Barrow Gang. Also, Gordon remembered that Ted Hinton, later to become the youngest officer in the Bonnie and Clyde ambush, would come by in the evenings on his motorcycle and pick up his mother who worked as a bookkeeper at the Western Union. He said that all the boys would laugh when they’d see her sitting on the back of that motorcycle driving off.
(1910 Pierce Arrow Shaft-Driven Bicycle)
The Observer recently posted an old picture of children working in Dallas which was pulled from the Library of Congress archives and taken to highlight the need to adopt child labor laws. That post immediately reminded me of this photo, as Gordon was not only a pre-teen when he started the job in Downtown Dallas, but also had to work the late night shifts from 10PM to 4AM in rain, sleet, snow, or hail.